► New VW Tiguan tested on UK roads
► Best-selling 2.0 TDI SE Nav model
► Competent, but not compelling
The original Volkswagen Tiguan was something of an automotive Benjamin Button. The older it got, the stronger it sold. In fact, its best sales year of all was its very last one, before being superseded by the all-new replacement tested here.
Of course, that’s because the small SUV market has exploded in the years since the first-generation Tiguan’s 2007 launch. Compact 4x4s earn big bucks these days, and the new model is better placed than ever to make the most of the gold rush.
We’ve already tested the new 2016 Tiguan overseas, and veered off the tarmac in the ‘Outdoor pack’-equipped version; now we’re trying it on UK roads in middling SE Navigation trim with the 148bhp 2.0 TDI diesel engine – the combination that’s expected to become the biggest seller of the range over here.
Give me a quick recap – what’s the story with the new Mk2 VW Tiguan?
It’s longer, lower and wider than the original, sharing much of the same modular chassis construction as the VW Group’s current ‘MQB’ model family – Golf, Touran, Passat etc. That architecture’s enabled a longer wheelbase, freeing up more knee room and boot space than Tiguan Take 1.
Volkswagen’s UK representatives describe it as ‘the most important new car for VW in the UK and worldwide this year.’ At launch, the range starts from £22,510 for the base S trim and stretches to £36,375 for the top R-Line version, putting it towards the pricier end of the small SUV scale.
There are seven engines (three petrol, four diesel), with diesel absolutely dominant – so much so that up to 90% of UK sales are expected to be derv models. Both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive Tiguans are available, and, in a reversal of typical crossover trends, awd ‘4Motion’ models are expected to make up the majority of sales. Of course, even 4Motion models will spend most of their days driving their front wheels, thanks to the Haldex clutch system.
Today, however, we’re testing the vanilla front-wheel-drive, manual Tiguan.
So what’s it like?
Roomy. There’s knee- and head-space to spare for daddy long-legs, and mummy and junior long-legs too, and the 60:40 split rear seats can slide on rails to free up extra boot space when required. The door bins are enormous, ergonomics largely faultless and all the trim’s rattle-free.
It’s about as interesting as interesting as sitting inside a filing cabinet, though. Apart from a splash of aluminium trim the interior’s very dull and grey, literally and metaphorically.
Stingily, there’s only one USB port, positioned ahead of the gear lever on the centre console. Annoying when most modern family members have at least one tablet, smartphone or other device that’ll need charging on a long journey.
And to drive?
First impression is of a surprisingly firm ride. On the SE trim car we drove, 18in wheels with large-sidewalled, run-flat tyres are standard and ride quality was a touch harsh on uneven road surfaces. Still, there’s a school of thought that reckons firmer-sprung cars are less likely to incite car sickness in passengers than softer ones. The car we drove was on the standard passive dampers; electronically controlled adaptive ones may help the ride, but they’re a £790 option (and not available on the lower-slung R-Line model).
The Tiguan II certainly feels more car-like to drive than the original, and it handles in safe, stable fashion – just as you’d hope a family car would.
The 148bhp 2.0 TDI’s a typical 4-cyl diesel, with a thick lump of torque in the middle and nothing up top. Performance feels ample rather than plenty, but there’s more than enough mid-range pull to tow a trailer or overtake dawdling traffic without any problems.
Presumably the new Tiguan comes with plenty of toys?
Sure does. A large, slick touchscreen is standard fit and pricier trims get a digital instrument panel VW calls ‘Active Info Display’ – much like Audi’s ‘Virtual Cockpit’ arrangement, with full sat-nav map graphics between the dials being one particular party trick. It’s standard on the SE L trim and above, otherwise a £500-ish optional extra. A heads-up display’s an option too, projected onto a clear strip rising out of the dashboard.
The Tiguan can park itself (even if hitched to a trailer, with the optional ‘Trailer Assist’ system), and the standard touchscreen’s compatible with the latest smartphone connection interfaces, including Mirrorlink, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
There’s the same semi-autonomous stuff available elsewhere in the MQB family too, including automatic emergency braking, self-governed stop and go in traffic jams, and Emergency Assist, which can contain the car within its lane, stick the hazards on and bring it to a halt if it detects that a driver has lost consciousness.
If you liked the idea of a Tiguan before – and many people did – there’s all the more reason to consider its roomier, nimbler and more efficient (if rather pricey) replacement.
Inoffensive and sensible but largely devoid of character, it’s a car you’d appreciate for its usefulness and dependability rather than its charisma, but that’s fine. If you’re seeking an SUV with a bit more verve, see the Renault Kadjar, Ford Kuga and co. for details.
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